Could Zapping Your Brain With Electricity Improve Your Memory?

Could Zapping Your Brain With Electricity Improve Your Memory?

Do you have memories you wish you could hold
onto forever? Do you sometimes feel like they’re getting
less vibrant? That’s probably because our working memory
starts to decline as soon as our late twenties! Oh my god it’s all downhill from here, isn’t
it? But new neuroscience research says that electrical
stimulation could drastically improve our memory performance. Would you do it? In case you hadn’t noticed, your brain is
a complicated place. It has lots of different kinds of memory,
and working memory is the kind in charge of remembering information that’s no longer
directly in front of you. This can be the temporary preservation of
something that just happened or the retrieval of something from your long-term memory. It’s the part of your cognition that’s
essential for things like processing and understanding language, logical and spatial reasoning, planning,
and—of course—remembering where you last saw your car keys. Our commonly accepted model for how working
memory works is that it’s the result of coordination between different kinds of brain
waves. Brain waves are the pulses of electrical activity
in your neurons, and those pulses can occur at different frequencies, resulting in different
types of waves. Gamma waves have a high frequency and are
associated with the storage and processing of sensory information. Theta waves have a longer-frequency, and are
associated with lots of different brain states, from an engaged brain that’s actively monitoring
something to a brain during REM sleep. And when your working memory is activated—say
you’re pulling a memory from long-term storage because you’re looking back on a detail
from your wedding day—those two types of waves couple and synchronize to build you
a sense-memory picture of the thing you’re trying to remember. They work in tandem to weave your memories
together. As we get older, our brains change. We may lose gray matter volume, our circulation
can get worse so our brains get less blood and oxygen—there are lots of possible structural,
neurobiological changes. Another change associated with aging is a
decrease in synchronization between regions of the brain. Whereas before you may have been able to recall
with perfect clarity the look on your spouses face as you said “I do,” as we get older,
researchers see brain waves start to pulse out of sync—the coupling and synchronization
of brain waves gets off-beat—and details like that may fade away. And of course, working memory is important
for much more than reminiscing. It’s required for daily life function—like
remembering where you keep the knives and forks or retaining new information from a
doctor’s appointment—so once we start to lose working memory like with age-related
dementia, we see a potential decrease in quality of life and independence. Makes sense we’d wanna improve that, right? Now you can, for the low, low price of shocking
your brain with electricity! It’s actually not as scary as it sounds:
this particular study used a non-invasive electrical stimulation method called transcranial
alternating-current stimulation to—for lack of a better word—zap the prefrontal and
temporal regions of the brain simultaneously. This jumpstarted the off-beat gamma and theta
waves back into sync. The result? Before electrical stimulation, a group of
test subjects in their 60s and 70s performed significantly worse on a visual working memory
task than subjects in their 20s. After 25 minutes of electrical stimulation
delivered via star-trek-like headset, the older adults caught up to the younger group—both
age groups performed the same on the task. Their brains were basically zapped back in
time! There was also a group of participants in
the younger group who performed worse than their fellow young peers on the exercise. After the same amount of electrical stimulation,
their performance on the task had also improved, so y’know there’s hope! Plus the improvements in cognitive performance
for the older group lasted for at least 50 minutes, which was the duration of the experiment,
so who knows! Maybe the effects lasted even longer. People may balk when they hear about electrical
stimulation of the brain. It may call to mind electroshock therapy,
a rather blunt instrument used in the early parts of the 20th century on patients with
psychosis or schizophrenia, often against their will and without much demonstrable therapeutic
effect. But while those early cases may be infamous
in the world of medical ethics, there are now plenty more examples of safe and effective
electrical stimulation of the brain. Doctors are now using transcranial alternating-current
stimulation (TACS)—the same technology used in this memory study—or Transcranial direct
current stimulation (TDCS) to test treatments for things like severe depression or to enhance
concentration. While relatively safe in the context of a
controlled research environment, the hype around the possibility of electrical stimulation
devices has led to a trend of consumer electronics—brain stimulating ones—or even DIY brain stimulation
kits. Which—it doesn’t take a genius to guess—is
not a good idea. Do NOT try this at home because if you do,
you risk seriously messing up your head with mood changes, or even inducing seizures. This study and many others like it working
on what we call the ‘entrainment’ of brain waves is just the very beginning of understanding
where and how memory function breaks down, and what the long-term solutions might be—the
neuroscience community is just dipping its toes into how we could put this into play
as a real-world treatment for the aging brain…preserving your memories, and hopefully your quality
of life, for as long as you live. You’ve probably seen our new show, Sick. It’s all about what’s happening in your body
when things start to go wrong. We’re talking Lyme disease, measles, lupus,
and more. Is there a disease or illness you want us
to cover? Let us know down in the comments. Make sure to subscribe to get all your science
news. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “Could Zapping Your Brain With Electricity Improve Your Memory?

  1. That pit inside your Head or the movie exist for no other reason than to serve a plot.
    Memories even especially baby memories get burtied unrecognized re-edited or brocken up. But can repeated together with practice .
    Emotional memory that is recreating situation. And you expect memories to Chemical imprint and Emoticons to Wave lengths

  2. When you get older, your body doesn't manage electric pulses as good as it used when you were young. So by increasing the strength of that electricity, you improve the rate of electric transportation. After all, your body is made up of atoms, and they are functioning thanks to electric charges, positive and negative.

  3. Yay. zombie humans are the future…

    Saying to people to not worry will not make people not worry.

    I feel like this is a similar category to chemical warfare, it will put back the people who are less fortunate even more back, they won't be able to afford this and they will be left behind because there will be no jobs for people with "lesser" brain.

    People who will have this or people who will not have this, there will be a big difference and there will be a social disconnect between two different people.

    Etc, more problems and more problems

  4. I have no time for the video, I will just connect main voltage to my head to see what happen!

  5. My baby back again and bringing in a idea I've been using for months now… your on the right track my love.

  6. thats really interesting, i saw this title and was surprised because i know one of the common side effects of brain stimulation when it's used to treat depression and other mental illnesses is memory loss

  7. Will this fix my Mum's short term memory loss? Not that she'd be keen on this. She hates taking medication or even seeing the doctor. Still ….

  8. When I was 7 back in Iraq I stuck 2 unprotected cables to an outlet, I got electrocuted it and really quick the power pushed me back and I had blue lines on my hand from where the wires were, I was lucky I didn't die but I do have really good memory so yea it work just be safe people

  9. I'm 40 and my memory is 10 times stronger than it was in my 20s. I actively work it out like my biceps or quadriceps, like any muscle. The more you use it the stronger it will become.

  10. Ect has long been known to cause memory loss and brain damage but it was still used to control the mentally ill miss me with this bullshit I know this isn't the same but don't let people give your brain "electric stimulation"

  11. So this is Electroshock Therapy Lite?
    We don't even know if cell phones are killing our brain cells and you want me to allow you to blast my skull with an EMP?
    Tell me Dr Mengele, where did you get you licence to practice?

  12. So we can upload data to our brain. It will be like "hello operator! Kindly upload athlete data, now I will have athlete body."

  13. Why on earth would you reserve it for the elderly? That's preposterous. I have memory problems now and had it all my life, I'm not waiting 20 years, and nobody should.
    We have to get past this idea that treatments are only for sick people anyway. If you can enhance functions without a cost in side effects, then that's a good thing.

  14. Ok, so… why do you cite "a scientific study" with no links to it? This is not proper citation, reminds me of the "chocolate is actually good for you" nonsense. Be more responsible. Shocking your brain has not been studied in this way as it's unethical.

  15. Over the past year ive had vivid flash backs to my oldest memorys that i didnt remember even when i was younger kinda scared the shit out of me because it felt phycidelic like i momentarily became that child dosnt scare me anymore because i found an explanation I forgot how to vibe for a good four years due to depression the depression went away but I forgot how to vibe because was no longer looking for it even though I very much enjoyed vibes and wanted them after depression I thought they were meaningless and that kept me from getting them so after the absence of vibes for so many years I started getting random flashbacks that were so powerfull enjoyed them all but didn't know what caused them I started to vibe again and these mini vibes triggerd really early memories and it took months to realize what was happening because I was more focused on the memory aspect that I didn't realize it was aswell vibing sounds crazy but makes sence to me after four years without vibes it drove me crazy though random memory's popping in my mind but once I realized they were triggers by vibes I started to give into it and the memories stopped and began to vibe again.

  16. Could you please cover LHON in your “Sick” series? I have Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy and it caused me to lose most of my sight when I was 16, I’m 24 now and I’m still confused about what happened in side my eyes.

  17. The brain isn’t designed to do anything it doesn’t do on its own. There are definatly gonna be long term problems with this

  18. My mother's been dead for almost 16 years and I would say yeah I would do it. If it would allow me to recall the memory of her with better clarity.

  19. Hi Maren – love Seeker & your personal channel

    Just wanted to comment on one thing in this presentation that is not accurate – at least not in Australia

    Your mention of Electroshock Therapy or Electroconvulsive Therapy as being something that was "used in the earlier parts of the 20th Century" is inaccurate- it is still recomended by Australian Psychiatric hospitals regularly – with the same questionable results and quite often against the will of the patients.

    Im not saying this from a "heard it from a friend" perspective – but from having spent time in a mental health facility in rural Australia.

    Sorry, this is no reflection on this article – which was fascinating – but I wanted to draw attention to the fact these barbaric procedures are still used.


  20. So, this is basically like what RoboCop did when he grabbed the live wires to get rid of all the crap that OCP put in his head?

  21. I like this better. It's still very against me, but they're not to sigh-y, caring tone, feel goodsy about it. It's emotionally unpolarized, just how science news was delivered all those years ago.

  22. If only the death sentence inmates or the asylum patients subjected to electric chair can answer them.

  23. Not all old memories are good for most people, so people might want to actually do the opposite and forget them…so for them the question is more like 'Can you erase your memories?'.

  24. How can this effect the probability of developing Alzheimer's or other such diseases. In fact this could be very useful in the means of other diseases/ disorders related to parts of the brain

  25. I like the method of multiple lasers that meet and stimulate specific areas at their intersecting point.

  26. Haha, I put my finger into a socket meant for light bulbs, while the switch was on. I got thrown off the chair and onto the floor by the current, and although I was 5 years old at the time, I still remember it vividly 24 years later.

  27. I was struck by lightning and I did experience many interesting sensations but I don't believe our heads helped with my memory.

  28. First, @Maren Hunsberger, I like your way in presenting science topics.
    Secondly, I have a comment on this episode, for Theta wave you cannot use the term Longer-Frequency, as there is nothing like longer or shorter frequencies but higher or lower frequencies, or shorter and longer periodic time.
    That's it, thanks!

  29. Hey just an idea, if gamma waves and theta waves synchronise to remember, and if IF making a story has a different set of brain wave functions then we could detect a lie ? Because aren't lies just story that we make up , while the truth is just a memory

  30. I just smoke sometimes a little bit DMT. It makes my mind way more clear and my memory works better even weeks after it, if the dose was big enough.

    Why is this, literally magical substance, not being studied more often? There was only one sadly…
    Stupid prohibition and stupid laws from the the past that hold us back even today!
    Psychedelics are a miracle and they do unbelievable stuff science cant explain today.

    Every human being who didnt took them, just cant understand what they are doing and to what unbelievable things they are capable of and what psychedelic really means.
    Its not just funny visuals, this is the only thing you can talk about and the most boring one, but they look very nice, yes! ^^
    The other things they do can not be put into words. They are beyond language.

    Many mental illnesses could be way better treated then today.
    It improves my life, my brain, my health.
    We really should study the shit out of this!

    But there is some hope, the psychedelic renaissance is in the beginning.

  31. What about DIY kits for detecting brainwaves? I'm very curious to know what patterns of impulses are going through my head, and it would be interesting to compare to those of other people. I definitely don't want to have it induce any changes, though.

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